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Lecture 4

Psychology 2410A/B Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Briey, Chape, Color Basic

Course Code
Adam Cohen

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Piaget concluded that young infants understand very little about physical events
Methodological concerns led investigators to seek alternative approaches for exploring
young infants’ physical knowledge
The first wave established that, contrary to Piaget’s claims, even young infants
possess some expectations about physical events
The second wave began to systematically examine the development of infants’
physical knowledge and brought to light striking patterns of successes and failures in
infants’ responses to physical events
Finally, the third, ongoing wave builds on these preceding efforts and attempts to
specify both how infants reason about physical events and what cognitive architecture
makes this reasoning possible
First Wave: The Competent Infant
One of the major alternative approaches used to explore young infants’ physical
knowledge relies on the long-established finding that infants tend to look longer at
stimuli they perceive to be novel as opposed to familiar
Looking-time tasks have two main advantages over action tasks
they can be administered to very young infants
they can be modified endlessly to explore subtle facets of infants’ responses to a
wide array of physical event
Evidence that infants look reliably longer at the unexpected than at the expected event
is taken to indicate that infants
possess the expectation under investigation
detect the violation in the unexpected event
are ‘surprised’ by this violation
Evidence that young infants are able to represent hidden objects
Evidence that young infants can represent hidden objects; they supported the notion
that infants who reveal a physical expectation in a VOE task will reveal the same
expectation in an action task as long as the demands of the task do not overwhelm
their limited information-processing resources; and they helped put some of the
concerns associated with VOE tasks
Second Wave: Developmental Patterns
4 month-olds were surprised when a wide object became fully hidden inside a narrow
container, they were not surprised when a tall object became fully hidden inside a
short container
7.5 months of age, infants succeeded in detecting this violation - but they were not
surprised if the tall object became fully hidden inside a short tube, instead of in inside
a short container
Developments Within Event Categories
Whether infants succeeded or failed at detecting a violation in an event category on
the particular expectation investigated
Infants were surprised if an object remained hidden when passing behind a screen
with a large opening extending from its lower edge

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However, infants were not surprised if an object remained hidden when passing
behind a screen with a large opening extending form its upper edge
3.5 months of age, infants detected this violation, suggesting that they now attended
to height information in occlusion events and expected tall objects to remain visible
above short occluders
4.5 months of age, infants were surprised if an object surreptitiously changed size or
shape when passing behind a narrow screen
However, infants failed to detect other change violations: prior to 7.5 months, infants
were not surprised if an object changed pattern when passing behind a narrow screen
Prior to about 11.5 months, infants were not surprised if an object changed color when
passing behind a narrow screen
Developments Across Event Categories
That there might be lags or decalages in infants acquisition of similar expectations in
different event categories
One difficulty with this conclusion was that the events being compared often differed in
so many dimensions that it made it difficult to determine exactly why infants
succeeded with one event category but failed with another
Infants did not begin to attend to height information until about 12 months in covering
events and until about 14.5 months in tube events
Prior to about 14.5 months, infants were not surprised if a tall object became fully
hidden inside a short tube, they were not surprised if an object changed height when
briefly lowered inside a tall tube and they tended to search for a tall object inside either
a tall or a short tube
Decalages With Perceptually Identical Events
Decalages have also been observed with perceptually identical events from different
Decalages are not due to the fact that infants generally have more difficulty reasoning
about containers as opposed to occluders, about covers as opposed t containers, or
about tubes as opposed to covers and containers
Third Wave: An Account of Infants’ Physical Reasoning
Our account focuses on very simple situations where infants reason about one or two
successive events involving a small number of objects
The events we investigate are by and large simple everyday events that would have
been familiar to our distant evolutionary ancestors
Physical-Reasoning System and Causal Framework
We assume that infants are born equipped with a physical reasoning (PR) system - an
abstract, computational system that provides a skeletal causal framework for making
sense of the displacements and interactions of objects and other physical entities
The PR system operates without conscious awareness: infants are not aware of the
causal framework they use when reasoning about physical events
When infants watch a physical event, the PR system builds a specialized physical
representation of the event
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